All posts by damian.toner@armaghbanbridgecraigavon.gov.uk

New Business Innovation Programme

Mid South West Secures £430K for New Business Innovation Programme

Up to 250 local businesses in the Mid South West Region will get the opportunity to accelerate their growth and innovation journeys on a new pilot support programme, thanks to investment of close to £430,000 from the UK Community Renewal Fund

Developed as a collaboration between Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, and Mid Ulster District Council; Mid South West (MSW) is responsible for delivering a Regional Economic Strategy that focuses on boosting productivity, driving business growth, promoting sectoral strengths, and creating more and better-paid jobs across the region.

The pilot Business Innovation Programme will get underway this month and will support local business growth, innovation and productivity within local micro, small and medium sized enterprises. Delivered by Brilliant Red Ltd on behalf of the three council collaboration, the forward-thinking programme will comprise of three strands: bespoke training workshops, innovation vouchers and tailored action plans.

“We are thrilled to have secured this significant investment from the UK Community Renewal Fund for our pilot Business Innovation Programme,” commented Councillor Paul McLean, Chair of the Mid South West Region Governance Steering Group.

“This programme will help equip local, ambitious businesses with the skills and knowledge needed to boost their innovation and productivity levels by sharing insights into new processes, industry 4.0 technologies and decarbonisation as well as opening up funding opportunities and nurturing new collaborative connections across the region.

“Launching the programme at Robotics and Automation Lab in South West College’s Dungannon campus couldn’t be more fitting. Already focused on driving change, the progressive college will support MSW’s ambitions to connect business, innovation and education with the development of a new Engineering and Skills Innovation Centre in the region.”

The training workshops will provide participants with a greater awareness and understanding of productivity, innovation and emerging technologies as well as highlight the benefits of collaborative working and knowledge sharing with key stakeholders such as further education colleges, universities and supply chain partners.

Eligible businesses on the programme will also have the opportunity to apply for £3,000 innovation vouchers, designed to help them access leadership and technical support for new projects and processes from industry experts. For businesses demonstrating high productivity potential, the pilot programme will help them develop tailored innovation action plans – addressing key themes such as operational productivity, digitalisation, decarbonisation, resourcing, skills and finance.

Vice Chair of the Mid South West Region Governance Steering Group, Councillor Barry McElduff said:

“Securing this funding and launching our pilot Business Innovation Programme is an important step for our Regional Economic Strategy in helping local MSW businesses realise greater performance, productivity and growth. With a focus on building local knowledge, awareness and opening new doors to emerging technologies such as data analytics, artificial intelligence and automation, the programme will help drive progress and inclusive prosperity across the region.”

Scheduled to run until June 2022, the programme targets micro, small and medium-sized businesses in the region’s key industrial sectors including manufacturing, engineering, aerospace, construction, agri-food processing, mining and quarrying as well as pharmaceutical, logistics, warehousing, information and communication technology.

Remarking on securing the contract to support delivery of the pilot, Brilliant Red Managing Director, Paul Reavey said:

“We at Brilliant Red are delighted to be working Mid South West on this regionally important programme helping some of Northern Ireland’s most exciting, high potential businesses reach new heights.”

If your business is based in the MSW Region and you would like to find out more, visit https://midsouthwestregion.org/pilot-business-innovation-programme/.

The pilot Business Innovation Programme is aligned to the MSW Regional Economic Strategy’s Boosting Innovation and Digital Capacity pillar. To learn more about MSW and its Regional Economic Strategy visit: https://midsouthwestregion.org/.

Minister Meets On Infrastructure Priorities

Minister Meets On Mid Ulster’s Infrastructure Priorities

Mid Ulster’s infrastructure priorities have been set out by Mid Ulster District Council in a meeting with Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon MLA yesterday (8 December 2021).

In the third and final visit to each of the council areas which make up the Mid South West (MSW) Region, Minister Mallon met the Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Paul McLean, who is also the current Chair of the MSW Region Governance Steering Group, alongside other elected representatives.

In a wide-ranging discussion, which focused on the specific strategic infrastructure priorities for Mid Ulster as part of the wider Mid South West Region, the Minister heard about the infrastructure required to support the delivery of growth projects as well as the time-critical need to deliver on bypasses for both Cookstown and Dungannon.

This meeting coincided with the second day of the A29 Cookstown Bypass public information event which was also held at the Burnavon Arts and Cultural Centre.

Members of the MSW grouping also emphasised the importance of opening up access to industrial land at strategic sites such as Desertcreat, as well as the need to address investment in utilities, most notably in the wastewater treatment systems which are already beyond capacity in Mid Ulster.

Active travel projects, alongside the opportunities to build on the development potential of the Ulster Canal and a range of greenway and blueway projects, also formed part of the meeting’s agenda.

Speaking after the meeting, Councillor McLean, said:

“There is an inextricable link between well-developed infrastructure in its broadest sense and a region’s pace of economic growth.

“And if infrastructure is a key economic driver, then addressing the regional, historical imbalance and underinvestment in infrastructure is critical to the overall success of Mid Ulster and the Mid South West region.

“It is equally critical to the ability of our business base, particularly our manufacturing sector, to expand and to compete more effectively in local, regional and international markets.

“We welcomed the opportunity to raise these issues with the Minister in what was a productive and valuable engagement, and hope we can continue to work in partnership with her to ensure we deliver against the wider ambitions for the Mid South West region”.

Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon said:

“I was delighted to be in Cookstown to meet with Mid Ulster Council as part of my ongoing engagement with representatives from the Mid South West Region Group and to hear about their vision for the area.  We had a very useful discussion on a range of key issues including roads infrastructure, active travel schemes and wastewater treatment systems.

“There has been historic underinvestment in many areas across the North.  Since becoming Minister, I have made clear my commitment to tackling regional imbalance and delivering for all communities. Last year I announced my intention to progress a number of strategic infrastructure and flagship projects.  One of these projects was the A29 Cookstown Bypass so I am pleased that this week we have unveiled the preferred route for this scheme which is of significant importance to the town of Cookstown and the surrounding area. The proposed route will remove strategic traffic from the town centre which will in turn help to reduce traffic congestion, increase road safety and improve air quality. As part of my commitment to delivering green infrastructure and providing greater opportunities for active travel, I am pleased to confirm there will also be walking and cycling provision along the entire scheme. 

“Going forward, I want to continue to work in partnership with the council and others to ensure that we can deliver the change people in Mid Ulster, and right across the North, have long deserved.”

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council make up the Mid South West region which is responsible for delivering a Regional Economic Strategy that focuses on boosting productivity, driving business growth, promoting sectoral strength and creating more and better paid jobs.

The members of the Mid South West Region Governance Steering Group who met with Minister Mallon were Councillor Martin Kearney (Mid Ulster), Councillor Cathal Mallaghan (Mid Ulster), Councillor Trevor Wilson (Mid Ulster) and Councillor Kevin Savage (Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon).

Council welcomes Minister to discuss infrastructure in Fermanagh and Omagh

Council welcomes Minister to discuss infrastructure in Fermanagh and Omagh

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon MLA visited Omagh on Wednesday 24 November 2021 to discuss the key infrastructure priorities in the Fermanagh and Omagh district.

Minister Mallon aided by her department officials met with representatives from the Mid South West (MSW) Region Governance Steering Group, the Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and the President of Omagh Chamber of Commerce to get a first-hand account of the unique challenges in the area which could be addressed by investment in infrastructure.

During the discussion, which was held at Fermanagh and Omagh District Council offices in Omagh, Minister Mallon heard about the Council’s focus on the importance of tackling a number of key infrastructure challenges impacting the economic growth of the district and wider Mid South West Region.

The discussion focused on the importance of working together to improve connectivity both within and to and from the district through strategic transport projects including the A4 Southern Enniskillen Bypass and the A5 Derry to Aughnacloy dual carriageway, in addition to other strategic roads schemes proposed through the Regional Strategic Transport Network Transport Plan and active travel measures.

Members took the opportunity to impress the importance of redeveloping the St Lucia site in Omagh and of the need for engagement with key stakeholders, including the local community and Council, in helping to shape the vision for this hugely significant site.

Other local priorities that formed a significant part of the discussion included the development of blue and green infrastructure including greenways across the district, the need for urgent investment in utilities such as sewerage and wastewater, a flood alleviation scheme for Omagh town centre and the development of a sustainable transport network to support economic growth and overall health, wellbeing and prosperity of those living in the district.

Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon said:

“I was delighted to be back in Fermanagh and Omagh today to meet with representatives from the Mid South West Region Group and to hear about their vision for the region.

“Since becoming Minister I have been clear that tackling regional imbalance has been a priority for me. I recognise prior to my tenure that there has been historic underinvestment in the Omagh and Fermanagh areas and I am working hard to ensure delivery on the ground for people across Fermanagh and Omagh.

“Reaffirming my clear commitment to the Enniskillen Southern bypass to Fermanagh and Omagh District Council representatives, I also outlined my plans to transform Enniskillen town centre by improving air quality, reducing noise pollution and enhancing active travel opportunities for locals and visitors alike. In line with that commitment my Department is currently drawing up a commission to examine how the bypass can unlock sustainable and active travel measures in the town centre. I am very aware this scheme is of significant importance to Enniskillen and I have made clear my commitment to the Council that making road improvements is crucial to tackling regional imbalance, improving the economy and connecting communities and improving road safety.

“Going forward, I want to continue to work in partnership with the council and others to ensure that we can deliver the change people in Fermanagh and Omagh, and right across the North, have long deserved.”

Chair of the Mid South West Region Governance Steering Group, Councillor Paul McLean said:

“We were delighted that Minister Mallon agreed to visit Omagh today so that she could hear first hand the challenges in the area which could be addressed through provision of new enabling infrastructure.

At today’s meeting we were keen to underline the need for targeted investment in strategic infrastructure, bringing transformational change to the area and local communities.

Investment in the Fermanagh and Omagh district and across the Mid South West Region is key to addressing regional imbalances and realising our growth ambitions for the district and beyond. The Minister’s commitment to continuing to work in partnership with Members and the Mid South West partner Councils on the range of issues discussed was warmly welcomed.”

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council; Mid South West region is responsible for delivering a Regional Economic Strategy that focuses on boosting productivity, driving business growth, promoting sectoral strength and creating more and better paid jobs.

Mid South West Region

Team Mid South West’ Embarks on a Collaborative Journey to Drive Economic Growth

Senior leaders from across the Mid South West (MSW) Region who met virtually last month are embarking on a process to develop business cases for a range of strategic projects that will help to deliver the MSW Regional Economic Strategy and secure Growth Deal investment.

The strategy’s ambition is to supercharge the growth of the collective MSW economy and ensure inclusive prosperity. To help achieve this ambition, more than 20 projects will be developed by the MSW Councils in collaboration with Partner agencies to secure a Growth Deal investment of just over a quarter of a billion pounds from the UK and NI Governments. Developed over the next 10-15 years, the projects will turbo charge economic growth in the MSW region.

The projects will tackle specific challenges which are impeding economic growth across three key investment areas: enabling infrastructure; boosting innovation and digital capacity; and building a high-performing visitor/tourist economy. All of the projects will consider the impact on skills development and will require close cooperative working between a number of partners.

Wide ranging in their nature, many of the projects will be at the cutting edge of innovation, including a proposed NI Agri-Food Robotics Centre at CAFRE’S Loughry Campus and an Engineering, Skills and Innovation Centre being spearheaded by the South West College.  Investment will also be targeted in new strategic road networks, industrial sites, the regeneration of our town centres and in tourist destinations including the Sperrins, Cuilcagh Lakelands Geopark and Armagh City, among others.

Welcoming colleagues to the meeting, Roger Wilson, Chief Executive of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council said: “Collaboration is key. By working together and pooling our resources, knowledge and influence we can achieve so much more for the benefit of the entire MSW region, socially and economically. We can create more and better jobs, drive our vision to supercharge the economy, secure sustainable investment and attract more visitors to our beautiful region.”

Peter Simpson, Head of Food Technology Branch at CAFRE added: “CAFRE is delighted to be a partner and to be working in collaboration with the Councils and other Partner agencies to secure investment on the scale that the Growth Deal will deliver which will be truly transformational for this region.  We very much welcomed the opportunity to meet with all of the partners last month not least because it marked a significant milestone in our journey to date, and while we do not underestimate the challenge ahead, we can and will achieve great things by working together.”

Need for infrastructure investment in Armagh City

Need for infrastructure investment in Armagh City

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon MLA visited Armagh on Thursday to see for herself the infrastructure challenges experienced in the City and throughout the Borough.

On arrival in the city, the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland, which is currently in the running for UK City of Culture 2025, Minister Mallon met with representatives from the Mid South West (MSW) Region Governance Steering Group, Vice Chair of Armagh City Centre Management and Department for Infrastructure officials to get a first-hand account of the unique challenges in the area which could be eased by investment in infrastructure.

Before witnessing the heavy traffic congestion on the Mall, Minister Mallon heard about the Borough’s City of Culture 2025 bid and the importance of addressing a number of infrastructure challenges to enable the City to realise its full potential as a rich and vibrant cultural heritage destination attracting global investment and visitors, promoting community cohesion and instilling a sense of pride in the place.

The discussion focused on the importance of working together to reconnect the compact city by introducing active travel and removing cars from parts of the city. They explored the ways in which they could realise the MSW Region Growth Deal by developing and delivering major infrastructural investments such as new road networks and rail connectivity, as well as improving cross-border connections and development of strategic sites. Local priorities were a significant part of the discussion, with access to industrial land and investment in utilities such as electricity, sewerage and wastewater systems high on the agenda.

Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon said: “I welcome the opportunity to visit Armagh today to meet again with representatives from the Mid South West Region Group and to hear about their vision for the region and the challenges they face.  

“Since becoming Minister I have been clear that tackling regional imbalance is a priority for me.  I recognise that there has been historic underinvestment in the west and I am committed to delivering for all parts of Northern Ireland.

“It is important that we take a strategic approach to delivering infrastructure across the north.  My Department is currently developing the draft Regional Strategic Transport Network Transport Plan, which will set out future investment and improvement for our strategic transport networks, by road, rail and bus, to 2035.  This Transport Plan will reflect my Department’s commitment to improving connectivity for the benefit of our economy and communities across Northern Ireland.  It will also help to inform the priorities for future development of the main road networks. 

“My officials will continue to work closely with the Councils on all issues raised today.”   

Chair of the Mid South West Region Governance Steering Group, Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon added: “We were delighted that Minister Mallon agreed to visit Armagh today so that she could see for herself the challenges our local representatives have been highlighting for years.

“We feel that infrastructure has been neglected in the west for too long. At today’s meeting we were keen to impress upon the Infrastructure Minister that funding must be distributed fairly across the north and that investment needs to be targeted in areas such as Armagh City where it will have a real impact on communities, businesses and visitors. With its significant cultural tapestry, Armagh must benefit from infrastructure investment now in order to become a modern future-proofed city that is ready to embrace new business and cultural opportunities, particularly with the UK City of Culture 2025 bid in the pipeline.

“Investment in infrastructure in our Borough and across the MSW region would mean vast improvements for the people who live, work, visit, invest in this place, and is key to unlocking the region’s economic potential and growth ambitions as well as driving competitiveness.”

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council; Mid South West (MSW) Region is responsible for delivering a Regional Economic Strategy that focuses on boosting productivity, driving business growth, promoting sectoral strengths, and creating more and better-paid jobs.

Business Innovation Programme

Business Innovation Programme Set to Revolutionise Local Business Growth Potential

Have you got an idea for your business but you’re not sure how to progress it?

Mid South West Region wants to hear from you as it seeks expressions of interest for its new pilot Business Innovation Programme, which sets out to assist local businesses fast track their growth and productivity post Covid-19.

Developed as a collaboration between Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council; Mid South West (MSW) is responsible for delivering a Regional Economic Strategy that focuses on boosting productivity, driving business growth, promoting sectoral strengths, and creating more and better-paid jobs across the Mid South West Region.

The new pilot Business Innovation Programme – which will see an investment of close to £430,000 for the region, subject to funding approval in late August – is designed to grow business innovation and productivity specifically within local micro, small and medium sized enterprises.

Aligned to the MSW Regional Economic Strategy’s Boosting Innovation and Digital Capacity pillar, this new initiative includes the delivery of bespoke training workshops developed to improve awareness and understanding of productivity and innovation potential, as well as encouraging the use of emerging technologies and sharing best practice knowledge through collaboration with key stakeholders.

What’s more, it also offers the opportunity for eligible businesses to apply for £3,000 innovation vouchers, designed to help them access leadership and technical support from industry experts for new projects and processes.

Chair of the Mid South West Region Governance Steering Group, Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon said:

“With a globalised, outward and forward-looking mentality, the Mid South West Region is home to many successful and world-leading export businesses; however despite this, our productivity levels still lag considerably behind Northern Ireland and UK averages.

“With the introduction of the pilot Business Innovation Programme, it is hoped we can help equip eligible businesses with the skills and toolkit to innovate faster and drive up productivity levels to ultimately plug this productivity gap and supercharge this region’s economic fortunes.”

For businesses demonstrating high productivity potential, the pilot Programme will also assist them in the development of tailored innovation actions plans, which will address key themes such as operational productivity, digitalisation, decarbonisation, resourcing, skills and finance.

Planned to run from September 2021 to March 2022, the Programme targets micro, small and medium-sized businesses in the region’s key industrial sectors including manufacturing, engineering, aerospace, construction, agri-food processing, mining and quarrying as well as pharmaceutical, logistics, warehousing, information and communication technology.

Councillor Paul McLean, Vice Chair of the Mid South West Region Governance Steering Group, said:

“Making up the vast majority of the MSW Region’s active companies and over one-third of all Northern Ireland businesses, our local micro, small and medium-sized enterprises are critical in helping boost our output performance and drive inclusive economic prosperity across the area.

“By building local knowledge, awareness and opening new doors to emerging technologies such as data analytics, artificial intelligence and automation, this pilot Programme has real potential to help the region take giant leaps forward in performance, productivity and growth.”

With insights into new processes, industry 4.0 technologies and decarbonisation, the Programme will support businesses on their innovation journeys and open up opportunities to apply to future funding initiatives such as the £15 million Industrial Investment Challenge Fund.

So, if you have a business based in the MSW Region and you would like to find out more about the pilot Business Innovation Programme or you would like to submit an expression of interest visit: https://midsouthwestregion.org/pilot-business-innovation-programme.

Deadline for expressions of interest is Friday 10 September 2021, 5pm.

The MSW pilot Business Innovation Programme is subject to funding from the UK Community Renewal Fund and therefore any business submitting an expression of interest should note registration does not guarantee their participation.

Mid South West region

Supercharging the Mid South West Economy

As the Mid South West launches its Regional Economic Strategy, the Mid South West Region Governance Steering Group write for Ambition, outlining how an area already considered the economic engine of Northern Ireland has plans to boost productivity and prosperity.

The commitment of three Councils to work collaboratively to drive economic growth across their areas makes sense. By pooling resources, ideas and status the collective can benefit from economies of scale and the region is much better placed to pursue investment.

The Mid South West is a collaboration between Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council. In the pages that follow you will read more of the detail of our collective ambition for the Mid South West Region and that ambition is firmly grounded in a place which has been the economic engine of Northern Ireland for quite some time. We’re proud of where we’ve come from, however we know that as a region we are capable of much, much more if we can address the deficits that exist – infrastructure, skills, innovation and tourism – and by doing so, provide the right conditions for those sectors where we are already leading the way – advanced manufacturing, engineering, agri-food, health and life sciences, tourism, construction and others – to excel. In essence our Regional Economic Strategy is focused on helping companies across the Mid South West supercharge the growth of their businesses which will in turn turbocharge the growth of the Mid South West economy and the Northern Ireland economy. We will strive to tackle the barriers to growth while also helping companies to become exemplars in their field, capable of competing with the best in the world. Collaboration is central to achieving this aim, not just across the three councils in the Mid South West but also with the business community which is at the heart of the region’s economic future.

We have already benefitted from the insight and expertise of our Business Reference Group, made up of some 18 companies who represent the region’s sectoral strengths and who were central to shaping the strategy. Moving forward, the commitment from all businesses in the Mid South West – startups, SMEs, large companies and every inward investor – will be critical to ensuring that the strategy can be successfully delivered.

We are breaking new ground with our Regional Economic Strategy and together we will be able to boost productivity and prosperity across the Mid South West Region and create an even better place for everyone to live, work and play.

 

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The Mid South West Region

How the business world is critical in helping the Mid South West Regional Economic Strategy reach its aim of supercharging the region’s economy

Companies have an important role to play in supercharging the Mid South West’s (MSW) economy as part of a unique collaboration between three of Northern Ireland’s most dynamic councils.

That’s the conclusion of the Mid South West Regional Economic Strategy which has been developed with the aim of boosting productivity across the three council areas of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council.

The input from businesses across a range of sectors has been instrumental in helping to shape the strategy by identifying areas where investment is needed to allow them to grow unimpeded and their continued input will be vital as the strategy is rolled out in the coming months and years, according to councillor Robert Irvine, chairman of the Mid South West Region Governance Steering Group.

“Business sits at the heart of this strategy and will be fundamental in ensuring that the Mid South West’s economy flourishes in the future,” he said. “We have geared the actions identified in the strategy towards addressing business needs and areas of deficit in order to provide businesses, that are already proficient, with the optimum conditions for them to maximise their potential, not just locally but internationally. By targeting investment we will reinforce the region’s sectoral strengths in manufacturing, engineering, agri-food, health and life sciences, tourism and construction as well as in a fast-growing digital tech sector.

“The Mid South West Business Reference Group has provided invaluable insight into the development of the strategy and will continue to play an important roll in its delivery. Our ambitions for the Mid South West economy are far reaching, but we are confident that with the support of businesses and all stakeholders in the region they are wholly achievable.”

The Mid South West Regional Economic Strategy identifies challenges and opportunities and sets out four pillars to guide investment and grow the collective economy. The pillars are: future proofing the skills base, enabling infrastructure, boosting innovation and digital capacity and building a high performing tourism economy.

By focusing on those areas, the overriding goals of increasing productivity, driving business growth and competitiveness, fully realising sectoral strengths and opportunities, creating more and better-paid jobs and ensuring the ongoing internationalisation of MSW can be achieved.

The strategy will enable the Mid South West Region to leverage financial investment from a range of sources – such as the £250m Growth Deal funding committed by the UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive, the PEACE PLUS Programme, the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund, Innovate UK and other central government funding.

The strategy was launched by First Minister Arlene Foster MLA and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA at a socially-distanced event held near Dungannon at the premises of EDGE Innovate, one of the companies represented on the Business Reference Group.

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Mid south west

Mid South West collaboration lays down plans for a prosperous future

A unique collaboration bringing together three Northern Ireland councils and the private, third level and education sectors has produced a strategy aimed at supercharging economic growth across the region in the coming years.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council have joined forces to form the Mid South West (MSW) Region with the primary aim of creating the optimum conditions to attract investment and drive economic growth.

To realise this ambition, they have developed a Regional Economic Strategy (RES) which has identified the areas where funding can be most effectively invested to address a range of challenges and ultimately boost economic growth opportunities.

Launched at a socially-distanced event at Edge Innovate in Dungannon on 9 September 2020 by First Minister Arlene Foster MLA and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA, the strategy was developed following extensive research and analysis of the region’s economy and was informed by engagement with the major employers located in the region.

Further collboaration from both local and central government will be necessary to help make, shape and support the case for change.

“The Regional Economic Strategy has been borne out of collaboration across the councils, across sectors and across geographies,” Councillor Robert Irvine, Chair of the Mid South West Region Governance Steering Group, said. “Its success relies on the continued input from all stakeholders to help keep our growth trajectory on course and to feed back on the needs of businesses operating in an ever-changing world.

“By working closely together over the next few years we will be able to boost productivity in the Mid South West Region and create more and better jobs. This region has proved itself to be the engine room of the Northern Ireland economy; our aim is to turbocharge the engine and create a more prosperous future for everyone.”

The strategy identifies challenges and opportunities for the region and sets out four pillars to guide investment and grow the collective economy. The pillars are: future proofing the skills base, enabling infrastructure, boosting innovation and digital capacity and building a high performing tourism economy. By focusing on these areas, the overriding Implementation of the RES will enable the Mid South West Region to leverage financial investment from a range of sources, such as the Growth Deal funding announced recently by the UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive, the PEACE PLUS Programme, the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund, Innovate UK and other central government funding.

“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create an even better place to live, work and invest across the Mid South West Region,” Councillor Irvine adds. “This co-ordinated, bottom-up approach ensures that we will leave no stone unturned in our pursuit for economic growth and we call upon all stakeholders across all sectors including the public, private and education sectors, to join us in putting a shoulder to the region’s economic wheel.”

The Mid South West Regional Economic Strategy in detail

The Regional Economic Strategy sets out a path to grow the economy of the Mid South West Region and Northern Ireland. It was an important initiative when work first began on it in 2018 and it’s even more important now as the region deals with the economic effects of and recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic.

“The strategy has been developed in close consultation with government departments and agencies, Invest Northern Ireland, Tourism Northern Ireland, skills bodies, business representative groups, educational institutions, universities and, crucially, businesses from a wide range of sectors.”

The key to its success is putting businesses and the MSW economy at the heart of plans to ensure that funding support, whether public or private, is invested in the most responsible and effective manner.

Significant investment will be required to deliver the strategy with a total commitment to date of a quarter of a billion pounds towards a Growth Deal goals of increasing productivity, driving business growth, fully realising sectoral strengths and opportunities, creating more and better-paid jobs and ensuring the ongoing internationalisation of MSW can be achieved.

from the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive. As previously stated, MSW will also pursue a range of other funding opportunities, such as investment through PEACE PLUS and the Shared Prosperity Fund, to name a few.

The strategy is structured around four intervention pillars:

1.‘Future Proofing’ the Skills Base

2.Enabling Infrastructure

3.Boosting Innovation and Digital Capacity

4.Building a High-Performing Tourism Economy

The interventions will be geared towards delivering exponential and long-term benefits including:

•increasing productivity levels and closing the productivity gap;

•driving business growth;

•protecting our unique sectoral advantages and realising sectoral opportunities;

•creating more, better paid jobs;

•rebalancing the regional economy;

•increasing our global impact and underlining the benefits to the Northern Ireland economy.

The MSW pillars

‘Future Proofing’ the Skills Base

Future proofing the skills base is becoming ever more important and was a top priority emerging from engagements with businesses during the development of the RES. MSW wants to ensure the requisite skills are available in scale and profile to underpin the region’s ambitions and those of the successful businesses which already exist there.

As well as requiring significant financial investment, the strategy seeks to drive change in four policy areas:

• access to labour/lobbying for a differentiated migration policy;

• policy changes to ‘off-the-shelf’ apprenticeships;

• extending the range of higher-level apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships available in the region; and

• a greater focus on shared apprenticeship schemes.

Enabling Infrastructure

Investment in infrastructure is critical to drive economic growth across MSW. Strategic road infrastructure enables businesses in the region to access all areas including ports and distribution points. The strategy has pinpointed where improvements are needed: the Armagh East Link; the A29 Cookstown bypass, the A4 Enniskillen Southern bypass, as well as the development of the A3 Armagh North & West Link, the A29 Dungannon bypass and the A32 Omagh to Enniskillen.

Investment will also be targeted at:

•addressing broadband, mobile coverage and reliability;

•transforming our high streets to be places of choice for our local communities;

•enabling access to available industrial land;

•driving investment in electricity supply; and

•supporting opportunities for regeneration and site development.

Boosting Innovation and Digital Capacity

Advanced manufacturing is one of MSW’s big success stories and has enormous potential. The region is placing its ambitions in this area into the Northern Ireland-wide ‘ecosystem’ and at the centre of what is being discussed within the City/Growth Deals (i.e. the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre in the Belfast Region City Deal and the Centre for Industrial Digitalisation, Robotics and Automation in Derry/Londonderry City Region). The ambition is to create an innovation and skills academy delivered by the South West College in Dungannon. In relation to agri-food, the impact of the strategy is global. The RES will support CAFRE in the development of a Northern Ireland Agri-food Robotics Centre at the Loughry Campus and work in collaboration with AFBI to develop a centre for Agri-Tech Innovation. It will develop agri-food incubation space to support food development for smaller SMEs, an area currently being explored by the Southern Regional College. The strategy also sets out plans to develop a network of Digi-Hubs to support the sector’s growth. In addition to exploring a number of potential health innovation proposals with the region’s two leading and acute teaching hospitals, MSW is also exploring a new-build Health and Care Centre in Cookstown.

Building a High-Performing Tourism Economy

The MSW has a host of tourism offerings: the Fermanagh Lakes, the Sperrins, our literary heritage, the cultural significance of Ireland’s oldest city, Armagh, where Patrick established his first church, the Ulster American Folk Park, Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark and more besides, including the recent announcement of the commitment to the Game of Thrones Legacy Project.

MSW’s aim is to invest in the development of its tourism product, including cross-border, in actions that stimulate/de-risk and expedite quality hotel investment as well as improving infrastructure for routing/ signposting and visitor engagement.

The future

MSW has already engaged extensively with businesses and key sectors, with politicians locally, regionally and nationally, with central government, with education and the wider stakeholder community, and that will continue.

“We will continue to work closely with the other Northern Ireland City/Growth Deal regions to ensure complementarity and to take advantage of any synergies which may exist and continue to welcome the input and guidance of our industry/business base,” Councillor Irvine explains. “We need their continued engagement with this initiative as we move through the next stages in development.

“The collaboration of our three councils to develop the Mid South West Regional Economic Strategy is a model of what can be achieved by people working together for the common good. We are living in truly life-changing times. In years to come, people will look back on 2020 and the Coronavirus pandemic and see it as a challenging experience for us all.

“We want to make it a positive moment in our history. The beginning of something transformative which builds on the region’s creativity and innovation.”

Download Mid South West collaboration lays down plans for a prosperous future PDF

Collaborating for a strong economic future for the Mid South West Region

A new strategy designed to supercharge the growth of the economy of the Mid South West (MSW) will create the right conditions for companies located in the region to flourish in the coming years. The Regional Economic Strategy is focused on boosting productivity across the three council areas of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council – which make up the Mid South West Region and will require businesses to play their part in helping to realise its ambitious goals. The strategy, which was developed following extensive research and analysis of the region’s economy and was informed by engagement with the region’s major employers, identifies challenges and opportunities and sets out four pillars to guide investment and grow the collective economy. The pillars are: future proofing the skills base, enabling infrastructure, boosting innovation and digital capacity and building a high performing tourism economy. By focusing on those areas, the overriding goals of increasing productivity, driving business growth, fully realising sectoral strengths and opportunities, creating more and better-paid jobs and ensuring the ongoing internationalisation of MSW can be achieved, Councillor Robert Irvine, Chair of the Mid South West Region Governance Steering Group, said. “Our ambitions for the Mid South West economy are far reaching, but we are confident that with the support of all stakeholders in the region they are wholly achievable. The analysis of the region’s economy was honest both in terms of identifying its strengths but also the areas where support and investment in a range of strategic interventions can have the most impact. “Through the Regional Economic Strategy, we will strive to create the conditions that the private sector needs to grow their businesses, employ more skilled staff and become internationally competitive. We are unashamedly ambitious as are our businesses and so by working together we can raise productivity and create a better future for everyone.” The strategy will enable the Mid South West Region to leverage financial investment from a range of sources – such as the Growth Deal funding announced by the UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive, the PEACE PLUS Programme, the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund, Innovate UK and other central government funding. Following the recent launch of the strategy by First Minister Arlene Foster MLA and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA at a socially-distanced event held at EDGE Innovate near Dungannon, Minister Dodds MLA, who also attended the launch said its overriding aims are more relevant than ever as the region recovers and rebuilds, adding that the support of the business community has been and will continue to be crucial. “This strategy provides an excellent framework to support the identification of Growth Deal projects and the councils are to be congratulated for coming together and working constructively” for the betterment of the region. She said sustained industry engagement will be key to its successful delivery. The strategy sets out several areas where growth is being impeded and how those impediments can be removed. Boosting productivity, connectivity and infrastructure, skills and making more of the region’s tourism offering are the focus of the strategy, which is structured around four intervention pillars.

MSW has engaged extensively with businesses and key sectors, with politicians locally, regionally and nationally, with central government, with education and the wider stakeholder community, and this engagement, particularly with businesses will continue. “We will continue to welcome the input and guidance of our industry/business base,” Councillor Irvine said. “Their ongoing engagement with this initiative is critical as we move to the next stage of development.” “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to supercharge the Mid South West economy and cement the Region’s position as Northern Ireland’s engine room.”

Download Collaborating for a strong economic future for the Mid South West Region PDF

Mid South West Region Launch

Mid South West launches regional strategy to supercharge economic growth

The economy in the Mid South West (MSW) will be supercharged under plans laid out in an ambitious Regional Economic Strategy which promises to transform the region.

Developed as a collaboration between Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council, the strategy is centred on boosting productivity.

The strategy, developed following extensive research and analysis of the region’s economy and informed by engagement with the major employers throughout the region, identifies challenges and opportunities and sets out four pillars to guide investment and grow the collective economy.

The pillars are: future proofing the skills base, enabling infrastructure, boosting innovation and digital capacity and building a high performing tourism economy.

By focusing on these pillars, the overriding goals of increasing productivity, driving business growth in the region, fully realising sectoral strengths and opportunities, creating more and better-paid jobs and ensuring the ongoing internationalisation of MSW can be achieved.

The strategy sets out a number of potential projects under each of the pillars which, with investment, would help boost productivity. These include further development of critical road infrastructure; the implementation of a Skills Action Plan; the development of an Innovation and Skills Academy through the South West College and an Agri Food Robotics Centre, at CAFRE Loughry Campus; as well as the development of a life and health science opportunity in Carn, Craigavon; delivery of a MSW destination tourism experience; and, further development of cross-border assets such as the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark.

The Regional Economic Strategy will enable the Mid South West Region to leverage financial investment from a range of sources – such as the Growth Deal funding announced by the UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive, the PEACE PLUS Programme, the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund, Innovate UK and other central government funding.

The strategy had been due to launch in spring 2020 but was postponed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Its overriding aims are more relevant than ever as the region recovers and rebuilds.

First Minister Arlene Foster said: “By joining forces, the three councils within the Mid South West have developed a plan which will transform not just the region, but the wider economy. The Mid South West Regional Economic Strategy is aligned with the recovery plans of central government and is particularly relevant as the economy recovers from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“As someone who grew up and lives in the Mid South West, it is particularly pleasing to see a roadmap laid out for this vibrant region, one which can only benefit from a joined up approach.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “The Regional Economic Strategy is a suitably ambitious plan for the Mid South West Region, which has immense potential and much to offer.

“As we set about rebuilding our economy, we know it needs to be fairer and more regionally balanced. It also has to be greener and more sustainable. The £252 million Growth Deal funding package that has been secured for the Mid South West is a fantastic and unique opportunity. This strategy will help to ensure the right initiatives are put in place to help the region reach its full potential and achieve prosperity for all the people of the area.”

Economy Minister Diane Dodds commented: “This strategy provides an excellent framework to support the identification of the right type of Growth Deal project and the Councils are to be congratulated for coming together and working so constructively to secure funding for their growth deal and the development of their Regional Economic Strategy. Key to success will be sustained industry engagement and It is critical that the Region ensures there is a robust mechanism in place to ensure meaningful engagement so that they can shape the innovation and digital projects to ensure they deliver their needs.”

Councillor Cathal Mallaghan, Chair of the Mid South West Region Governance Steering Group, said: “The Mid South West Regional Economic Strategy sets out a plan to help our businesses to scale, export and become more profitable. We are going to work together to ensure that we achieve this ambition, thereby boosting productivity across the region, ensuring a more prosperous future and rebalancing our regional economy.

Darragh Cullen, Managing Director of EDGE Innovate which hosted the launch event, said: “Along with a number of other major employers in the Mid South West I was involved in the Business Reference Group which contributed to the development of the Regional Economic Strategy. By addressing our challenges and putting in place the structures and interventions which will enable businesses to do what we do best, the strategy will allow us and other businesses in this region to excel.”

Representatives from the main business groups

Business bodies help shape plan to grow Mid South West region economy

The main business bodies in Northern Ireland are helping shape a Regional Economic Strategy for the Mid South West (MSW) region.

Representatives from the Confederation of British Industry, Institute of Directors, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses, Hospitality Ulster, Northern Ireland Retail Consortium and the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association met on Friday to hear about progress in the development of the strategy and to put forward ideas as to how business growth can be maximised across the region.

The Regional Economic Strategy is the focus of a unique collaboration between the three councils which form the MSW region: Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council.

Its aims are to improve productivity; create more and better jobs; address economic infrastructure; grow investment; support business innovation; grow tourism and improve skills across the MSW region.

Councillor Siobhán Currie, Chair of Fermanagh & Omagh District Council, said: “The business organisations gathered around the table today represent a huge swathe of the companies operating the region. Their input will be invaluable in helping shape the Regional Economic Strategy which will set a path for the future growth of the region’s economy and the prosperity of everyone.”

Councillor Martin Kearney, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, said: “We want to make sure the Regional Economic Strategy for the Mid South West answers the very real and present needs of the business community. With the help of the business organisations who attended today’s meeting, we will develop that strategy around those needs to help businesses to grow and compete on a global stage now and in the future.”

Councillor Mealla Campbell, Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, said:  “The importance of the Mid South West region’s economy has been emphasised by the strong representation of Northern Ireland’s main business organisations today. We plan to put everything in place to help their members – based in the Mid South West region and throughout Northern Ireland – grow, thrive and create jobs in the coming years.”